Featured Grantee Fact Sheet


“Foundation Rwanda was established to improve the lives of children born of rape during and following the 1994 genocide by (1) providing funding for their secondary school education, (2) linking their mothers to existing psychological and medical support services and income-generating activities, and (3) raising awareness about the consequences of genocide and sexual violence through photography and new media.”

“I have two children that I got as a result of rape. I’m not happy being a mother. These children distorted my life. The experience of rape distorted my ambitions. I could have been something, someone.” – Beatrice

Image copyright Foundation Rwanda/Jonathan Torgovnik

Life Challenges of the Women Served

In the 1994 Rwanda Genocide and for several years after, hundreds of thousands of Rwandan women and girls were brutally raped.  Of these, an estimated 20,000 gave birth. Many were infected with HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases.  They have been severely marginalized by their families and communities and experience ongoing physical and psychological problems. Many are single parents and many live in severe poverty (less than 50 cents a day).

The children are constant reminders of the violence and pain their mothers experienced. Some children have difficult relationships with their mothers and are called ‘children of bad memories’ or ‘children of the killer’. Few women have told their children the circumstances of their birth.

They need counseling to regain their sense of community, to recreate the support networks the genocide destroyed, to improve psychological well-being and create dialogue while prompting solutions to the numerous challenges of being the mother of a child born of rape.

The Project

Foundation Rwanda’s Community Counseling Initiative (CCI) objective is to bring the women together in a safe and protected space to receive peer support and professional counseling. The counseling groups will also establish informal support networks not previously available, which help to reduce social isolation. The facilitation of group discussion and counseling will improve psychological well-being and mother-child relationships.

Throughout the program, each woman will be informed about the process of disclosure (telling her child about the circumstances of the child’s conception).  Women will be counseled on approaches to disclosure, expected reactions and determining the best time to have the discussion. The program will set up 20 community counseling groups of 10 women each.  Five trained counselors will facilitate the groups and be responsible for the specific needs of the women in their groups.  The counseling groups will meet every two weeks over a period of six months.

The program and counselors are supervised by a clinical psychologist. Key topics for the groups include: trauma, parenting responsibilities, child development, family conflict and disclosure.

After 12 weeks of bi-monthly sessions, the groups will have three follow-up sessions.  The interval between sessions will become increasingly longer to give the women an opportunity to put the skills learned into practice.  These sessions provide continued support, allow counselors to monitor progress of the women and to troubleshoot if needed.  Each group will also elect trusted “group parents” from within their group to follow-up with each of the women individually.

A three-day non-residential workshop will be held for 60 daughters of the participating women (through a process of self-selection and nomination by group counselors) to determine the impact of the program on their lives and whether additional support for the girls is required.

Questions for Discussion

1)  Why do you think rape continues to be used as a weapon in war or genocide? 2)  How does rape, particularly wartime rape, affect the women, their families, and the country? 3) What makes Foundation Rwanda a powerful program for helping rape victims and their families?  What other types of programs or efforts are needed to prevent the victimization of women in war?

How the Grant Will be Used

DFW’s grant of $49,898 will cover group counselor expenses for 16 sessions with 200 women, half the cost of a clinical psychologist, partial cost of participation expenses, and a three-day workshop for daughters of rape victims.

Foundation Rwanda Community Counseling Initiative – DFW Budget Expense
Personnel expenses include: •    Per diem, travel and communication costs for five group counselors for 16 sessions; •    Contribution to salary of lead counselors at three partner organizations •    Twenty-five percent of program manager salary •    Fifty percent of salary for a senior key worker to coordinate counselor activities •    Fifty percent of clinical psychologist salary $27,861
Training expenses include materials, meals and refreshments, transport for trainees, supervision materials, and contribution toward cost renting meeting space. $ 1,233
Non-personnel expenses include transportation for 200 participants, refreshments for group sessions, materials, a monthly stipend for “group parents” for three  months; modem and voice recorder for each of the three counseling centers $15,116
Other expenses include a three-day non-residential workshop for 60 girls; professional translation services; survey printing costs; survey data input into evaluation software; monitoring and evaluation visit costs by psychologist $  5,688
Program Total  $49,898

Please note: If net donations exceed the featured program amount, we provide sustained program funding (grants to selected programs previously funded by Dining for Women) and provide a reserve to ensure we are able to meet future grant obligations in the case of a shortfall. When the reserve reaches a level of $25,000-$30,000 (after all aforementioned obligations are fulfilled) funds will become available for programs selected by member vote.  

Why We Love This Project/Organization

We love this program because Foundation Rwanda’s pilot program has demonstrated that even short-term psychological counseling can substantially reduce the isolation and loneliness caused by rape and the subsequent birth of a child.

This is the first program for women with children born of rape, and we believe that psychological health is as important as, and impacts, physical health. We are excited to be on the forefront of supporting mental health initiatives for rape victims.

Evidence of Success

Women who participated in a 2012 pilot program reported significant improvements, on average reporting their quality of life increased from a score of 3 out of 10 to a score of 9 out of 10. At the beginning of the sessions, nearly half the women reported having no one to talk to and by the end all of the women felt they had at least one person to talk to, with the majority reporting that they had “many people to talk to”. Over half the women reported increased acceptance of their children, and nearly half noticed an improved relationship with their child. The children also noticed positive changes with their mothers and at home.

Voices of the Girls

The following quotes are from anonymous Foundation women who participated in the 2012 CCI pilot project:

  • “I always thought that I was the only one suffering from having a child that was born out of rape, but after our group discussion, I got to know that it is no longer my concern as an individual but our concern as a group.  Sharing our experiences gave me more hope and strength.”
  • “We are happy to have this group.  We finally have a place where we can share our experiences and emotions.  Discussing in the group helps us to release our pain.”
  • “I have conflict, a conflict with my own body as a result of the rape.  I think my child also has conflict, a conflict inside herself because of (her father’s) identity.”
  • “After the training, I took the decision to tell my child how she was born so that she knows the real truth without getting it from others.”
  • “Telling my child the way she was born gave me peace – now the relationship with her has improved as well as with other members of the family.”

UN Millennium Development Goal supported by the program






About the Organization

In February 2006, photojournalist Jonathan Torgovnik traveled to East Africa for Newsweek magazine to do a story for the 25th anniversary of the discovery of HIV/AIDS. While there, he met Margaret, a Rwandan survivor who had been brutally raped during the genocide, subsequently became pregnant and contracted HIV.  This horrific story led Torgovnik to embark on a photo project to document the stories of women like Margaret.

He learned that an estimated 20,000 children were born of rape committed during and after the genocide, and that their mothers were unable to afford the secondary school fees to keep these children in school.  Deeply affected by the ongoing challenges these women and children faced on a daily basis, Torgovnik joined with non-profit professional Jules Shell to create Foundation Rwanda in 2008.

Where They Work

Rwanda is one of the smallest countries in Africa, and it has the highest population density on the continent. It is comparable in size to Haiti or the state of Maryland in the United States.

Rwanda has few natural resources. A large part of the population lives on subsistence farming, therefore dispersed settlements and strongly fragmented agricultural areas are characteristic for the cultural landscape in large parts of the country. The country faces pressures from a rapidly growing population which increases annually by 2.76 percent and exploitation of the existing environment, e.g. as the pollution of important water resources due to unpurified waste water, the threat of deforestation as well as danger of erosion because of uncontrolled settlement activities. 

Crushing poverty still affects about 40 percent of the population. Millions live on tiny plots of land scarcely capable of producing adequate food for families in which the average woman gives birth to six children.

But, the country has rebuilt and rebounded from the ravages of genocide and civil war in a remarkable way, according to journalist Nicholas Kristof, “…five years ago, traveling anywhere in the country was a bumpy ride, if the way was even passable. Today, east-to-west and north-to-south, the road infrastructure is impressive and continues to expand. Five years ago, the country struggled to get tourists in for $375 permits to visit Rwanda’s mountain gorillas. Today, during high season, there are not enough $500 tickets to meet the demand. Five years ago, there were no supermarkets or ATMs, and the cheapest cell phones cost $50. Today there are multiple supermarkets, over a dozen international ATMs, and cell phones that cost $14 are plentiful.”  Foundation Rwanda’s Community Counseling Initiative will focus on the districts of Butare and Nyanza in the Southern Province and Bugesera in the Eastern Province.

History of the Region

  • For centuries, Rwanda existed as a centralized monarchy under a succession of Tutsi kings from one clan, who ruled through cattle chiefs, land chiefs and military chiefs. The king was supreme but the rest of the population – Hutu, Tutsi and Twa – lived in harmony.
  • A Hutu revolution in 1959 forced as many as 300,000 Tutsis to flee the country, making the remaining Tutsis a small minority. By early 1961, victorious Hutus had forced Rwanda’s Tutsi monarch into exile and declared the country a republic.
  • The Hutu-led National Revolutionary Movement for Development (NRMD) subjected the Tutsis to periodic massacres over the next two decades, and ruled the country with institutionalized discrimination.
  • In 1994, some 800,000 people were killed in a period of three months.

The Rwandan Patriotic Front (Tutsi refugees) gained control and established a coalition government with a Hutu as president and a Tutsi as vice president and defense minister. The NRMD party, which had played a key role in organizing the genocide, was outlawed, and a new constitution adopted in 2003 eliminated reference to ethnicity.

Source Materials

Documentation and images provided by Foundation Rwanda to Dining for Women • http://www.history.com/topics/rwandan-genocide

• “16 Years after the Genocide, Rwanda Continues Forward”, Nicholas Kristof, http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/06/16-years-after-the-genocide-rwanda-continues-forward/?_r=0

• Rwanda: Children of Bad Memories, Al Jazeera, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/letterfrommychild/2013/04/2013439564950802.html

• Interview with Jonathan Torgovnik – http://fkmagazine.lv/2012/07/19/interview-with-jonathan-torgovnik/

• Intended Consequences, a photo/video journal. Photojournalist Jonathan Torgovnik, with Jules Shell, photographed and interviewed 30 genocide rape victims and their families, and has produced a piece of incredible complexity. Oct 2008. http://mediastorm.com/publication/intended-consequences

• Rwanda’s Children of Rape, BBC, 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/8768943.stm

• Legacy of Rwanda Violence: Thousands Born of Rape, James McKinley Jr., New York Times, Sep 1996. http://www.nytimes.com/1996/09/23/world/legacy-of-rwanda-violence-the-thousands-born-ofrape.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

• Politics / Economy / History / Geography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Rwanda • Embassy of the US – Kigali, Rwanda. http://rwanda.usembassy.gov/general_information2.html